The tabloid war and the complex, long relationship between 'News' editor Colin Myler and 'Post' editor Col Allan
11:32 am Apr. 23, 2012
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When Colin Myler flew over from England back in January to start a new job as editor-in-chief of the Daily News, he didn't mind (in the British press, anywway) fueling the idea that he was going to war with competing hometown tabloid (and News Corp. title) the New York Post.
Myler, a scoop-hungry Fleet Street veteran who'd gotten to know Manhattan during his mid-2000's stint as the Post's second-in-command under Aussie general Coll Allan, had been recovering from the wounds he'd sustained six months earlier when News Corp., in damage-control mode as it weathered the apex of a phone-hacking saga in the U.K., shut down News of the World, which company chairman Rupert Murdoch had plucked Myler to edit in 2007 as the scandal was first starting to pick up steam.
The episode left Myler with no place to work and a big red mark on his resume. That is until News owner Mort Zuckerman came calling with an offer that couldn't be refused. What better way to stick it to the people who threw you to the wolves than to come back and do battle on behalf of one of their enemies? Myler, the thinking went, would be out for revenge, and the longstanding rivalry between the two tabloids was about to get ugly.
Things haven't quite played out that way. While there's been some jousting here and there since Myler took the helm, Myler, in one sign of a possible detente, reportedly opted not to run with an irresistible scoop about his former boss, a decision that baffled at least one of Myler's predecessors.
"How to explain this softer, kinder, kid-glove treatment of a tabloid that every day competes for the same circulation and, even more significantly, the same advertisers?," asked former News editor Martin Dunn. "How to rationalize that decision in an environment where both newspapers struggle for revenue and readers?"
Some color to that effect emerges in Steve Fishman's must-read New York magazine profile of Myler this week: "They became best mates," Fishman reports of Myler's relationship with Allan when they worked together, "visiting each other’s houses, drinking together, and even engaging in the occasional brawl."
Which is not to say the two editors have much in common apart from their Catholic heritage and "deep love for tabloid-making."
Allan is "a fiery, sharp-tongued, counterpunching conservative" and Myler a "working-class kid with a charming manner and an upbringing in the Labour Party—anathema to the politics of the Post."
The difference is that now the latter editor can pursue his editorial interests without having to appease the former's ideological leanings.
Indeed, under Myler, the News, which already has a bigger stake in covering the types of stories that matter to working- and middle-class New Yorkers, appears to be trending even farther from the right.
Politically, the Daily News had been tracking Zuckerman’s Democrat-in-Name-Only evolution, but Myler has seemed to nudge it toward his own Labour Party leanings. WHAT DOES A WOMAN HAVE TO DO TO PROVE SHE WAS RAPED?, a front-page headline asked after a jury failed to convict a cop on rape charges. And in the Trayvon Martin case, he steered his paper’s coverage crisply leftward. He threw a jab at Murdoch’s Fox: “Fox affiliate in Florida portrayed a group of neo-Nazis as a ‘civil-rights group’ that wanted to protect white citizens in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting,” said a headline. The paper also reached out to immigrants, whom it portrays as future Americans, sharing the dreams of every New Yorker. Myler no longer sounds like a Murdoch man. “One of the things, as an editor, you take great pride in is making a difference,” he said recently—meaning: in the lives of the less fortunate.
That doesn't mean Myler has any intention of being scooped, of course.
Fishman's piece elaborates on an anecdote that was first floated by Post media reporter Keith Kelly a few days after Myler landed at the News.
"Myler went crazy," according to Fishman, because none of his journalists, unlike the Post's, were on-scene to cover the early-morning exit of Beyoncé and Jay-Z from Lenox Hill Hospital following the tabloid-tailored birth of their first-born, Blue Ivy:
He didn’t raise his voice, but his tone and his intensity were “withering.” To Myler, these were excuses—the Post had put a reporter on the scene. “There’s only one big story every day, and you have to be on it,” he told them. He let them know that their job was to never, ever get beat by the Post.
One possible distraction to Myler's mission? New allegations that he "attempted to intimidate members of the UK parliament investigating phone hacking."
In other news...
"What is it with television news and corrections?," asks David Carr. [The New York Times]
Meet Mitt Romney's new media-hating flack, Richard Grenell. [The Huffington Post]
"How the Media Covered the 2012 Primary Campaign." [Project for Excellence in Journalism]
Arianna Huffington talks about her website's Pulitzer on "Reliable Sources." [Huff TV]
Chris Mohney talks about his move to Tumblr. [Adweek]
Atlantic Media's new business site is hiring. [Talking Biz News]
The Reuters union isn't happy about "performance improvement plans." [Newspaper Guild of New York]
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